Prelim / Training Level

with Raffles

Raffles is now 4 years old, and working towards his debut prelim test. This program reveals all the ‘golden nuggets’ of training you need to succeed, from warming-up with beautifully balanced transitions, to achieving bend and suppleness through your horse’s whole body. Finally, put it all together and learn how to prepare for a competition.

Prelim / Training Level

with Raffles

Follow each season with 4 year old Raffles as we reveal all the ‘golden nuggets’ of training you need.

Start your adventure here!

Spring Season

The aim of our daily training is to make our horses completely loose and supple, and working through the back. By the end of this season you will be warming up like a pro!

Download our quick reference cards for each lesson to keep you and your horse on track!

4yo Spring 1 thumb
Spring: Lesson 1

Warm-up Routine

  • Warm-up plan
  • Stretching
  • Long & low
  • Seeking contact
  • Free walk
  • Benefits of looseness
  • 2nd track
  • Straightness

Learn how to stretch your horse and teach them how to seek the contact.

Generally, every training session is made up of three parts like a menu: loosening up for 'starters', working for the 'main course', and then more loosening for ‘dessert’ at the end. In this first lesson, we are going to show you how to loosen your horse and teach them to stretch forward and down into the contact. But why is 'looseness' so important? The benefits are:

1. Impulsion - a horse with a supple back can step forwards energetically with his hind feet.

2. Straightness - a supple horse is able to move straight towards the rider's hands without the hindquarters swinging to the side.

3. Submission - working through the back, makes it easier for the horse to obey the aids, which makes things easier for both horse and rider.

4. When it comes to test riding, the definition of free walk is 'maximum stretch with contact' - and it is worth double marks!

 

 

 

Spring 2 thumb
Spring: Lesson 2

Sustaining Canter

  • 2nd track
  • Transitions
  • Lightness
  • Energy
  • Steady contact
  • Balance strap
  • Bridging reins

Improve balance and teach your horse to stay in front of the leg in canter.

In dressage, it’s often said that transitions can improve everything! This lesson is hugely beneficial as we’re doing two things at once; firstly, teaching you how to ride downward transitions correctly, and secondly, your horse will learn to stay in the canter by themselves! If like Raffles, your horse drops out of canter, instead of aiding or shoving with your seat, immediately ride a downward transition to walk for 2-3 steps, then pick up the trot and canter again. The purpose of this downward transition is to:

1. Loosen the back so that he can bring his hind legs under his body

2. Strengthen the hindquarter muscles

3. Lighten the forehand and create MORE energy

Interspersing these transitions teaches your horse to take responsibility for sustaining the canter. Mentally, he will soon realise transitions are actually harder work than staying in the canter!

Spring: Lesson 3

Diamond Accuracy

  • Rider accuracy
  • Reducing reliance on inside rein
  • Engaging inside hindleg
  • Strengthening limbs
  • Improved quality of paces

Diamonds are 'our best friend' for improving straightness and accuracy.

I see so many clients riding poorly executed circles, usually because the horse pushes through the outside shoulder, which then triggers the rider to use the inside rein… disaster! By mastering this exercise, you will improve your overall straightness and the accuracy and quality of your circles, instead of meandering around, with your horse falling to the inside or outside - you can’t ever cheat on the diamond! The setup can be either at the end of the arena or as we have it in the centre, using the B & E markers on the sides and then placing two cones on the centre line to make a 20m diamond shape. You will soon realise you have to be 10 times more vigilant to stay balanced and accurate on the turns at each point of the diamond, and absolutely straight on the lines between them. This pattern will teach you to set up your horse better for every movement… and get those high scores!

Spring 4 thumb
Spring: Lesson 4

Square Halt

  • Training square halt 'in-hand'
  • Parasympathetic state
  • Crookedness
  • Balance

Lots of easy marks up for grabs - learn how to halt square every time!

Every dressage test has at least one halt at the end of the test which is 10 whole marks - that’s a lot of marks up for grabs! We start this lesson on the ground teaching you how to train the square halt ‘in-hand’. This is something you can play with any time and it only take a few sessions for your horse to join up the dots and figure it out. Once your horse got the hang of standing square in front, you’re half way there, so then we do exactly the same with the hinds. We can then start the same process under saddle. The key to a good square halt is your horse’s balance. If he is loading one shoulder or is slightly crooked, the chances are your halt will not be square. So we start on the track using the fence to help us in the beginning. A pair of eyes on the ground or a mirror is useful, or you might just need to LOOK and see what’s happening... just make sure you then sit up tall and your weight is even on both sides!

Downloadable Quick-Reference Cards

Lesson:Warm-up Routine

Grab a friend! Take it in turns to play ‘hotter’ or ‘colder’ to get the feeling of taking the bit forward and down and keeping a consistent contact.
Place 4 cones on the short ends of the arena 2m in from the corners to mark out the ‘2nd track'.
Starting in walk, raise the bit upwards into the corners of your horse’s mouth so there is a consistent pressure.
‘Follow’ the contact as your horse takes the bit forward and down. Ease the pressure slightly as your horse stretches - so this becomes a ‘sweet spot’.
Next progress to trot. Be quick to bend your elbows to follow the contact if your horse raises their head. Repeat on both reins equally.
REMEMBER:
Pay attention to the quality of each pace. Make sure you have plenty of impulsion before you ask your horse to stretch.

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This program is currently in progress

Each season will be added as we progress in real-time through the year. The complete program will be available to buy at the end of the year. Meanwhile you can join our membership to get access to the lessons which are already live. Enjoy!

Lesson:Reaction and Impulsion

Start in rising trot on a 20m circle. Don’t be too picky about the size or the shape for now - this lesson is all about sharpening up your reactions!
Count 10 strides and when you get to 5 start to prepare, so your transition (either upward to canter or downward to trot) is precisely on the count of 10!
Canter transition aids: sitting trot, sit tall, slightly raise your inside rein, inside leg at the girth, outside leg behind the girth for the strike off .
Trot transition aids: both legs on, sit tall, stop following the canter with your seat, close the reins with your fingers, into sitting trot.
This lesson is quite intense so only do a few reps to begin with. In between each rep, stretch and walk away from the area of ‘pressure’.
REMEMBER:
Ideally your horse should react to a light leg aid. If they don’t respond, use the whip to tap behind your leg - not as punishment, but as a reminder.

Lesson:Reaction and Impulsion

Start in rising trot on a 20m circle. Don’t be too picky about the size or the shape for now - this lesson is all about sharpening up your reactions!
Count 10 strides and when you get to 5 start to prepare, so your transition (either upward to canter or downward to trot) is precisely on the count of 10!
Canter transition aids: sitting trot, sit tall, slightly raise your inside rein, inside leg at the girth, outside leg behind the girth for the strike off .
Trot transition aids: both legs on, sit tall, stop following the canter with your seat, close the reins with your fingers, into sitting trot.
This lesson is quite intense so only do a few reps to begin with. In between each rep, stretch and walk away from the area of ‘pressure’.
REMEMBER:
Ideally your horse should react to a light leg aid. If they don’t respond, use the whip to tap behind your leg - not as punishment, but as a reminder.

Lesson:Creating Bend

In this lesson you will learn how to shift your horse’s spine and create bend from poll to tail. You will need a cone placed in the centre of the arena.
Start left rein in walk on a 15m circle around the cone. Keep your inside hand ‘open’ towards your knee. Then bend your horse’s neck to look at your left toe.
At the same time, you bend around and look at your horse’s inside hind leg. So ‘every body look left’. Repeat several times in walk and then trot.
Change rein and repeat - ‘everybody look right’. Allow enough length in the outside rein for your horse’s neck to bend towards your right toe.
Focus on the ‘feeling’ when your horse ‘let’s you in’. The barrel will shift to the outside, allowing space for your inside leg and seat bone to sink downward.
REMEMBER:
Lack of suppleness is the root cause of many problems. In your riding, think about solving the ‘problem’, rather than covering up the ‘symptom’.

Lesson:Forward Connection

Start this lesson on the ground... with your trusty wheel barrow! This will give you the ‘feeling’ of pushing your hands forward when you ride.
At the ‘A’ end of the arena, spiral down from 20m, 15m to 10m into the corner, and then down the centre line. Remember this feeling when you ride!
Next place a cone in the corner and ride the same pattern in trot, using your outside turning aids. Test yourself by ‘giving and retaking’ the inside rein.
Focus on ‘channeling your energy’ forward around each circle, with your horse in the correct alignment ie. the hind legs following the front, on two tracks.
Finally, once you have established ‘alignment’ on the 10m circle, turn onto centre line. Focus on the feeling of ‘forward connection’. Repeat on both reins.
REMEMBER:
Riders often draw into themselves and ride with a ‘backward hand’ when they are nervous in a test. Think of the wheelbarrow - channel your energy forward!

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